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The sound of champagne on ice at 30,000 feet
on 9 April 2013
Think the rich harmonies of Fleet Foxes, the intricate melodic architecture of Elbow, the rhythmic drive of James' Laid, and the lyrical dexterity of Bon Iver. Or, since this already feels like a classic, Simon and Garfunkel meets The Byrds and Harvest-era Neil Young. The generation you hear in its influences really doesn't matter, but the album surely does. Fossil Collective is a band with serious musical ambitions and their debut LP achieves the small miracle of pulling an authentic, nearly lo-fi, rabbit from a meticulously recorded hat. Only musicians of rare talent and soul can achieve this feat, which is borne out by the fact that multiple vocal harmonies, subtle dynamics and instrumental perfectionism are also the core of the band's live sound.
This album's motif is the element of air. Skies, stars, kites and birds adorn the lyrics, and the soundscape conveys the sense of an aerial view. Perhaps that's why Tell Where I Lie satisfies and intrigues enough on first listen to warrant further attention, like being struck by the beauty of a new country from the air so wanting to land and explore it. Landing here does not disappoint; it grows and grows with every subsequent outing until you find yourself humming the horns from Brother or the strings from Monument without even knowing what they are.
Let It Go, On and On and When Frank Became an Orb have previously been released on singles and EP, and they form the album's band-defining spine. But the new material is a joy. Under My Arrest sounds like late spring rain falling on your face after a hosepipe ban, Dave Fendick's angelic lead vocals wondering "Am I just a falling star?". Boy with Blackbird Kite struggles upwards like its subject and ends soaring in clear skies. Wolves pulsates with the bitch-in-heat of a sweaty summer night. British Sea Power would be proud of the shimmering Brother, which explores the theme of reconciliation and includes a line which could be the album's long-haul motto: "Now it's time to forget about time". Monument and The Magpie are the most ambitious tracks, and neither misses a beat. Each creates a cathedral-sized instrumental space which is amply filled with the sonic equivalent of watching the sun set over the Himalayas from 30,000 feet. The Magpie put me in mind of The Indigo Girls meeting recent Radiohead; and the 2:44 minute guitar-and-vocal How Was I to Know testifies to the pure songwriting nous that underscores every track, ending the album on a wintry note and hinting at another reason why the whole effect feels timeless: the album is structured, consciously or not, like a flight through the seasons of a year.
Only time will tell whether this album gets the attention it richly deserves, but it could be the soundtrack to your 2013. It will be mine.